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Self-driving cars roll out in Houston, Q3 VC funding recap, and more trending innovation news

A self-driving car service has launched in Houston — and more trending tech and innovation news from this week. Photo courtesy of Cruise

Editor's note:Another week has come and gone, and it's time to round up the top headlines from the past few days. Trending Houston tech and startup articles on InnovationMap included a roundup of VC funding from last quarter, finalists named for the Houston Innovation Awards, and more.

Exclusive: First self-driving car service for passengers launches in Houston

Cruise is now cruising some Houston streets. The self-driving car service has launched with $5 flat-rate rides. Photo courtesy of Cruise

For the first time, Houstonians can hail an autonomous vehicle to get from point A to point B, thanks to a tech company's latest market roll out.

San Francisco-based Cruise, which has launched in its hometown, Phoenix, and Austin over the past year and a half, previously announced Houston and Dallas as the company's next stops. Dallas, where Cruise is currently undergoing testing, will roll out its service by the end of the year.

As of today, October 12, Houstonians in the Downtown, Midtown, East Downtown, Montrose, Hyde Park, and River Oaks neighborhoods can hail a ride from an autonomous electric vehicle seven days a week between the hours of 9 pm to 6 am.

"We believe that everyone has a right to safer, more accessible and more affordable transportation, and we remain focused on cities first because that’s where our mission will have the greatest impact. Houston follows that city-first strategy with its densely traversed downtown, propensity for ridehail, and vibrant cultural center," Sola Lawal, Cruise's Houston manager, tells InnovationMap. "Cruise also shares in Houston’s Vision Zero mission to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030 and we’re excited to address the transportation needs of Houston communities." Read more.

Houston immunotherapy company achieves FDA designation for cancer-fighting vaccine

A Houston health care company received the green light from the FDA to advance a treatment that's targeting a deadly cancer. Photo via Getty Images

The FDA has granted a Houston-based company a Fast Track designation.

Diakonos Oncology Corp. is a clinical-stage immuno-oncology company that has developed a unique dendritic cell vaccine, DOC1021. The vaccine targets glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and most lethal malignant brain tumor in adults. The aggressive tumors come with a life expectancy of about 15 months following diagnosis. About 7 percent of those diagnosed survive five years, while the 10-year outlook only sees a one-percent survival rate.

“The FDA’s decision acknowledges the potential of this new treatment approach for a very challenging disease,” Diakonos CEO Mike Wicks says in a press release. “Our protocol represents a first for cancer immunotherapy and could be viable for many types of cancers beyond GBM.” Read more.

2023 Houston Innovation Awards finalists announced

Here's what Houston startups and innovators will be honored at the Houston Innovation Awards on November 8. Graphic via Gow Media

In just three weeks, all of Houston's innovation ecosystem will gather to celebrate the hard work of startups, entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, and more — and over 50 honorees will be recognized for their achievements. Click here to see the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards finalists.

Here's what Houston startups snagged fresh funding last quarter

Here's what Houston startups scored investment in Q3 of 2023. Photo via Getty Images

With Houston's business and innovation community firmly in its final leg of 2023, it's time to look back on funding from the previous quarter.

While last quarter revealed a decline in VC funding in line with the rest of the country, per PitchBook data, around 60 Houston-area companies secured venture funding in the third quarter. These deals spanned across angel and seed rounds all the way up to a monolith of a series C and unicorn status achievement.

According to InnovationMap reporting, 5 Houston-based companies announced VC funding between July and September. Here's a roundup of these second quarter deals — click on each story to read more. Read more.

Houston innovator backed by NIH grant tackles congenital heart disease in pediatric patients

Yaxin Wang leads the IDEA Lab at the Texas Heart Institute. Photo via texasheart.org

In 1969, Dr. Denton A. Cooley implanted the first total artificial heart in a living patient. Most Houstonians know Cooley’s name, but fewer can name his colleague, Dr. Domingo Liotta, who created the device. Liotta died last year at the age of 97, but his work continues at the Texas Heart Institute.

Meet Yaxin Wang, PhD. The research engineer leads the IDEA Lab at THI. IDEA stands for Innovative Device & Engineering Applications, an apt description of what Wang and her colleagues do. She’s currently focused intensely on projects that could radically change transplantation for patients in need of an artificial heart or new, healthy lungs.

Specifically, Wang is helping to develop a pediatric left ventricular assist device (NeoVAD) to mechanically pump that part of the heart in infants and small children born with heart defects.

“There aren’t a lot of options for very small kids,” explains Wang. “That’s why we’re working on an implantable LVAD for very young kids.” Read more.

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